Hello. I’m Gavin Edwards, contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the New York Times-bestselling author of The Tao of Bill Murray, the ’Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy series, and Last Night at the Viper Room. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. I like caffeine, boardgames, and lists with three items.

The Day the Music Died

I drove down to Monroe, North Carolina, and spent a bittersweet day at Holloway’s Music Center–a musical-instrument store that, after 106 years of ownership by the same family, is turning off the lights. (They hope that if they liquidate enough stock, they’ll find somebody who wants to buy the business.)

The air conditioning was busted, so an industrial fan blew cool air over the water-stained carpets. A giant sagging yellow sign outside the store advertised “LIQUIDATION SALE.” The store’s proprietor, Marion Holloway – a silver-haired man of 71 with a smile for everyone – said of the sign, “That gets more attention than ‘OLD FART RETIRING.’”

To read the whole Charlotte Observer article, click here.

posted 12 June 2018 in Articles, Outside. no comments yet

1988 Countdown: Commercial Break #27

(New to the countdown? Catch up here.)

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.39.54 AMTime to visit the Duke.

Let’s dispatch this commercial break quickly so we can get back to the videos sooner rather than later.

We kick off with the eighth appearance of the frequently played promo for “Big Bang ’89”: live performances from Robert Plant, Poison, Winger, Cameo, Hall and Oates, Escape Club, Bobby Brown, and Vixen. “Five number-one hits in your face and more!”

Then, the even-more-frequently played commercial (fourteen times and counting!) for The January Man. Man, Kevin Kline, Susan Sarandon, and Danny Aiello were young once.

A Gillette ad for their Astra razors. Lots of slow-motion footage of well-groomed men: businessmen, astronauts, and for some reason, the Los Angeles Rams. (Yes, I’ve been recapping this countdown long enough that the Rams have relocated to L.A.)

A commercial for Michelob Dry. The first half, the typography has serifs and both upper and lower case; the second half, it’s all bold sans-serif caps.

A quick spot for Willow on VHS. “At last, a family epic with heart to match its spectacle.”

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.38.53 AMSomething shiny and new and seventeen seconds long! The word ONLY in large white capitals on a black screen. A vintage shot of a Sputnik-era satellite. The words WORLD WIDE, and then ALREDEDOR DEL MUNDO, followed by what I assume is the equivalent message in kanji. A quick montage of world maps saturated with color, followed by an array of satellite dishes with ominous clouds moving behind them. The soundtrack is humming modem-type noises with some teletype clacking. Then some photo negative faces, the words MUSIC VIDEO, a close-up on a mouth blowing smoke, a quick flurry of computer graphics and maps, and the word NETWORK before we end with the MTV logo.

posted 5 June 2018 in 1988. 2 comments

The World According to Tom Hanks

WorldAccordingTomHanks.inddComing in October from Grand Central Publishing! With illustrations by the brilliant R. Sikoryak! Scientifically engineered to make your world a better place! Stay tuned for more information!

posted 29 May 2018 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Voice Rising

Hello citizens of Chapel Hill! I will be in your fair city on this Tuesday, May 22nd, as part of the “Voice Rising” series at Flyleaf Books. There’ll be a small bevy of authors reading brand-new work: me, Rowan Chand, Jane Falkner, and Sara Oechsle. And we’ll be answering questions afterwards. (Flyleaf will also have a selection of my books on hand, so I’d be happy to sign a copy of The Tao of Bill Murray for you.) Be there! Bring everyone you know!

Details: Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Blvd. (Historic Airport Rd.), Chapel Hill, NC 27514. This Tuesday, May 22nd, starting at 7 pm. See you there!

posted 20 May 2018 in News. no comments yet

The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses

tbboec revised coverComing in August from Penguin! Edited by yours truly! With over a hundred brilliant contributors! Start lining up at your local bookstore now! More information soon!

posted 11 May 2018 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

Neil Tennant Q&A

pet shop thingIn early March, I wrote an article for The New York Times about the American debut of The Most Incredible Thing, a ballet based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, with choreography by Javier de Frutos and a score by the Pet Shop Boys. It was a pleasure to report for many reasons–not least getting on the phone with the brilliant Neil Tennant, one half of the Pet Shop Boys (along with Chris Lowe). Our conversation covered more territory than there was room for in the article, including an update on what the duo have been working on lately–so here are some highlights from the interview.

What surprised you with this whole experience of The Most Incredible Thing?

I was amazed how good it was. (laughs)

The Most Incredible Thing seems like a very Pet Shop Boys idea, but it’s even more a very Pet Shop Boys title.

The title was probably the single thing that most attracted me to it initially!

Tell me about the section of the score with the clock.

We decided to be quite literal and put the clock ringing for each hour. It’s meant to sum up all aspects of human life—

Well, that’s not too ambitious.

It’s not, is it, in twenty minutes? A baby is born, it’s got religion, it’s got the Ten Commandments in there, it’s got a rocket going off to the moon. I was very pleased when we stuck it all together. I think we’re going to do another ballet. Pop musicians who write ballets—it doesn’t happen that often. I mean, Elvis Costello did one [Il Sogno]. He actually wrote an orchestral score.

You’ve always had songs with the trappings of the classical world, like “My October Symphony” or name-dropping Debussy—it’s almost like you were anticipating that you’d move in this direction.

We always had theatrical ambitions, and that’s because of our backgrounds. Chris’s mother was a dancer and his grandfather was in a musical act called The Nitwits. And they were a comedy jazz group, sort of trad jazz, and they used to play in Las Vegas during the sixties–Chris’s grandfather lived in Las Vegas. So Chris is accustomed to this way of looking at things: actually putting on a show. And I was an amateur. As a boy I was in the youth theater in Newcastle, where I grew up. But I also wrote a play and put together some shows and put music in them–even when I was seventeen I was doing that. So for both of us it seemed like a natural way of going about things.

The Most Incredible Thing score integrated electronics and orchestral arrangements. Could it work as an amateur production with a schoolmarm on piano?

Yes. I mean, you’d have to do a piano score first. I think the next ballet we do will either have only electronic or only orchestral. It actually might be only electronics. It’s always quite a problem with electronics and orchestra together, getting the balance right. The guy who mixes our sound in our concerts also does a lot of classical stuff in Germany–he does Pet Shop Boys but he also does the Berlin Philharmonic. So he’s got those skills. You’ve really got to balance the whole thing very carefully. And also, sometimes a melodic line sounds like it’s being played by the orchestra and actually it’s being played on the keyboard and vice versa.

Years ago, you said something—I think to Chris Heath–that maybe the Pet Shop Boys could change every year. One year it would be four girls, and the next year four elderly men.

Well, you know, we never did it. But as you say that, I immediately think what a great idea it was. You know we got that from Menudo? When we first went to New York in 1983, there was this show “Menudo” on the television. And it was, like, five Mexican boys or something? And when one of them got to sixteen they got thrown out and a younger one came in. There was something fascinatingly brutal about this idea.

What else are you working on now?

We have just been in Berlin for two weeks, writing some new songs. And we’ve done it a different way. We didn’t really do any writing last year–well, we did a tiny bit–’cause we were on tour quite a lot of the time. But I wrote lyrics and I decided to email them to Chris and it turned out that Chris had set most of them to music. So we’ve suddenly turned into Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

And the thing is, ultimately Chris writes the music and I sing over it. But when Chris writes the melodies, he doesn’t write the melodies I would write. His are more complicated and so I have to learn his melody but then suddenly it all falls into place. So we’ve written some songs that might be on the next album, who knows? Who knows when the next album will be, but we’ve started that process. We had a fun two weeks. We like writing songs, writing music, we enjoy it.

That’s good. It’d be a long life otherwise.

People in the press often think you’re doing it for the money or because you have to. But really we do it because, right from the beginning, it’s fun and exciting having new songs at the end of the day, even if it’s never released. It’s a great feeling, a new song.

posted 27 April 2018 in Articles. no comments yet

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Ballet

tmitHello! In case you missed them, I wanted to call your attention to two pieces I wrote for The New York Times in recent months. The first one was on the 50th anniversary of Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” I spoke with an extraordinarily cool range of people for the article: Steve Cropper, Zelma Redding, Grace Slick, Booker T. Jones, et alia. Plus I got a statement from Michael Bolton (which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d be typing). The second one was on the American debut of The Most Incredible Thing, the ballet with a score by the Pet Shop Boys and choreography by Javier de Frutos. I’m really proud of both–but the space constraints of newspaper articles meant that I couldn’t put in all the great stuff people told me, so I’ll try to post some of it here in coming weeks. Stay tuned….

posted 4 April 2018 in Outside. no comments yet

R.I.P. Tom Petty

silence screencapTom Petty died three weeks ago, and I’m still not used to a world without him. I interviewed him just once (for the first Mudcrutch album, about ten years ago)–he was gracious and professional and insisted that I stick around to listen to rehearsal rather than be ejected into the afternoon rush hour of the San Fernando Valley. But his music had long been a soundtrack of my life (as it was for so many people), and I treasure that I got to see him a half-dozen times over the years (including one show at the legendary Fillmore stand).

One source of solace recently was hearing about the Los Angeles vampire community moving west down Ventura Boulevard in tribute to Petty. Another was being invited by the good people of Billboard to write about Petty’s legacy; when I asked if I could tackle “American Girl,” they immediately said yes. If you’d like to read my essay about “American Girl” and its wide-ranging impact on our culture, there’s a little more to life somewhere else.

A paragraph that got cut because of space limitations:

The lyrics of “American Girl” are deceptively simple; Petty wasn’t trying to compete with Elvis Costello in the Wordplay Olympics. Or as he told Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone in 1977, “I ain’t making records for somebody who’s going through their dictionary.” But “God it’s so painful when something that’s so close / Is still so far out of reach” perfectly expresses longing, just like “the waiting is the hardest part” does—Petty had a knack for cutting down human emotions to their essence. Here, as in many of his best songs, he walks right up to the edge of cliché before taking one crucial step back. (Consider “You Wreck Me,” a song that Petty originally wrote as “You Rock Me”—he knew that just one changed vowel could transform a hackneyed lyric.) In the painful aftermath of Petty’s death, many fans shared stories about how his music provided a bridge to relatives and roommates who they had nothing else in common with. The universal quality of Petty’s songwriting is why his music was woven into so many disparate lives.

posted 24 October 2017 in Outside. no comments yet

The Tao of Bill Murray Paperback

ttobm paperbackThe Tao of Bill Murray is coming out in paperback, which I guess makes me a paperback writer. Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It’s on sale October 24th and has this spiffy new cover, plus an appendix on Bill’s remarkable 2017, when the Cubs won the World Series and he went along for the ride. (The cover design, by the way, is adapted from the Spanish-language version published by Setanta/Blackie Books, so my thanks to them.) Tell your local bookstore that you want them to get you a copy (find a local bookstore via IndieBound), or hit up Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, or Random House.

posted 2 October 2017 in Buy My Stuff. no comments yet

The Golden Age of Francis Spufford

red plentyI recently had the pleasure of interviewing the brilliant author Francis Spufford for the Barnes & Noble Review. I suggest you go read our conversation, but I suggest even more strongly that you read his books, including Red Plenty (a brilliant fictionalized history of the Soviet Union) and the new Golden Hill (a exhilarating novel set in 1740s Manhattan).

A bonus exchange that we had to cut for space:

Have you thought about why Red Plenty is so appealing to science-fiction fans?

I have. For one thing, I am a science-fiction fan, so it’s appealing to me. But also it’s because I set out to build the world of the USSR in the early 1960s pretty much the same way you’d describe an invented culture on an alien planet. You have to assume your reader is sitting somewhere very different and the whole thing has to be built up from ground level in the heads of people reading. And the same skill set which will build interstellar empires turns out to work quite nicely on building the real historical USSR because it is freaky enough and works by different enough rules that you might as well treat it as alien–with the lovely, paradoxical kicker that it’s true.

posted 29 June 2017 in Articles. no comments yet

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